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Waste Management to reduce emissions or mitigate the effects of climate change. Waste NOT counts twice!!
Waste management begins when shopping or choosing products or services. Waste management continues until all leftovers have been looked after and the energy has been spent to manage the waste. All of the steps along the way to reduce use of energy count toward reducing emissions. Our reduction of emissions reduces the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are responsible for changing our climate.
By choosing products or services with less packaging there is less waste to look after.
This is true for corporations and governments as well as individuals. Buying in bulk does this as well. The type of packaging chosen should also help by choosing packaging that uses less energy to process it as waste or can be more easily recycled.
Toronto District School Board(TDSB) program includes waste management and waste audits. The TDSB Ecoschools program includes a waste reduction program. Some schools have a very active student-run recycling program.
TDSB outdoor education centres involve students in mealtime waste reduction activity. Each student can have as much as they would like to eat. At the end of the meal, the food wastes from each table are weighed by the students with the help of centre staff. Weights from the tables of students are graphed during their visit at the centre. The results are easily seen on the graph on the wall. There are always very few grams of waste food by the end of the class visit. The lesson of food waste management has been learned.
Communities throughout Ontario are struggling to deal with the amount of waste generated by their citizens. Land fill and dump sites are filling. Many communities have begun limiting the number of bags garbage per household, charging for tags and extra bags, recycling a wider range of waste and collecting less often. The city of Guelph has been separating wet and dry garbage for several years. See SUCCESSES on the menu bar. Toronto began in 2004.
The town of Caledon has established a modular system that is running at a profit.
The general public requires more information so that reasons for the effort to manage waste are better understood. The connection between increasing waste disposal and increasing greenhouse gases is not clear enough to the average citizen.
Waste and waste management affect the release of greenhouse gases in five major ways:
1. landfill emissions of methane;
2. reductions in fossil fuel use by substituting energy recovery from waste combustion;
3. reduction in energy consumption and process gas releases in extractive and manufacturing industries, as a result of recycling;
4. carbon sequestration in forests, caused by decreased demand for virgin paper; and
5. energy used in the transport of waste for disposal or recycling.
Except for the long-range transport of glass for reuse or recycling, emissions during transportation of secondary materials are generally smaller than the other four factors.
Landfill: The common methods of waste disposal are landfills and open dumps. Although these disposal methods often have lower first costs, they may cause serious local air and water pollution. They release landfill gas (LFG). LFG is produced when bacteria decompose organic material, such as food, yard waste, diapers, paper and cardboard, in the absence of oxygen. This happens when waste is piled high or buried. The process is called anaerobic digestion.
LFG is about 50%-60% methane, 40%-45% CO2 with traces of other organic gases. The City of Toronto receives $2.5 million per year from its landfill gas electricity projects.
Recycling and Reuse: Recycling involves the collection of materials during production or at the end of a product’s useful lifetime for reuse in the manufacturing process. Recycling processes can be as simple as re-melting of glass, aluminum, or steel. It can involve breaking apart and remaking of paper or other fibres (e.g., textiles or carpets).
Bathroom ceramics are now being recycled into road materials in California.
Recycling plastics and synthetic fibres may be a complex chemical breakdown into their individual molecular building blocks, then using these to make materials instead of using oil stocks.
In many cases, manufacturing products from recycled materials uses less energy and with has GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions than making products from virgin materials. This is especially true for aluminum and steel. These metals have energy intensive production processes that release large amounts of GHG’s production (that is CO2 and PFCs).
Composting: Composting happens when bacteria and other organisms digest organic waste. Bacteria need oxygen to digest the waste properly. This is called aerobic digestion. The decomposed matter can be used as a soil conditioner. Research shows that using compost can reduce the USA fertilizer requirements by at least 20%. This would significantly reduce net GHG emissions. Other new opportunities involve anaerobic digestion of agricultural and food industry wastes to produce methane gas or biogas.
Biogas facilities produce methane as a substitute for fossil fuels, reducing GHG emissions. Ontario engineers have completed a pilot project using a mixture of waste-activated sludge, food waste, industrial sludge from potato processing, and municipal waste paper.
Sources: Climate Change 2001 Synthesis Report p 323, Climate Change 2001 WGIII Mitigation Section 3.7, David Suzuki Foundation website: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Climate_Change/Solutions/Landfills.asp
Toronto District School Board Information Services.
Choose one manufactured product or food stuff. Research the amount of fossil fuel used to manufacture or grow it, package and transport it, maintain and dispose of the leftover(s). Track this product from point of origin to point of disposal or recycle. How can you reduce the amount of energy required through the lifetime of this product? What other choices of product are possible that require less energy emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG’s)?
There is an old saying Waste not – Want not! As energy becomes more expensive so will all products and services. The key is to remember that waste not also means reducing GHG”s double the benefits of saving money and saving our climate!
See also “Desktop Composter” Activity, “One Tonne Challenge Activity”